** update (7:05 pm) — BREAKING NEWS: Pitt has offered Hinish a scholarship for 2017.
Kurt “Braeden” Hinish doesn’t have to look very far to understand what it takes to find excellence on the football field.
After all, Hinish is part of Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s storied football program that won both the WPIAL and PIAA championships this Fall and is expected be one of the best teams in the state again this upcoming season. The Vikings return plenty of talent next year and the talented two-way lineman joins teammates David Adams and C.J. Thorpe as three PCC Vikings who are among the most highly sought after recruits in the state for the class of 2017.
The list of division one programs who have offered the 6-foot-3, 270 pound defensive tackle has now reached the double digits with Boston College, West Virginia and Baylor offering this week alone. Expect that list to get much larger in the coming months and there is growing speculation it’s only a matter of time until the University of Pittsburgh becomes the next Power-Five program to offer.
Pittsburgh Sports Now had the pleasure of getting some insight from Hinish on a number of topics from football to family in our first of many Q&A sessions we plan on having with top recruits in the WPIAL and beyond.
We hope you enjoy.
PSN–First off, congrats on winning a WPIAL and PIAA championship. It must have been so rewarding to accomplish all that you did as a team. What was the journey like for you and your teammates after coming up short in 2014?
KBH–Many people may have thought that the journey started during August when we finally got to put on pads to play, but actually the journey started in a cold sorrowful locker room at Heinz Field in November of 2014 when I promised my fellow teammates for as long as you guys play this game with me, you will never feel this feeling of loss ever again.
The beginning of the season was rough when we lost to NA but we redeemed ourselves in the (WPIAL) quarter finals against them. The WPIAL championship was nice but what we really wanted was the state title. When we reached the state title we were actually upset we are done playing with each other. Nothing feels better than walking around the hallways of school a champion.
You had a tremendous team this past year that includes some highly sought after 2016 recruits like Damar Hamlin, Bricen Garner, Rashad Wheeler, Ronnie Jones and Ron George. Watching them all go through the recruiting process must have been a big help preparing you for all that will be coming your way over the next year. What have you learned from seeing that process play out with your teammates?
Seeing those guys get the attention they got was actually motivation for me. Seeing stacks of mail and the coaches coming in to talk to them every week was awesome. I wanted that attention so started working extremely hard to get where I’m at. Sometimes they give me little indicators on how coaches feel about you based on what they say to you. The biggest thing I learned was to always stay humble from my fellow teammate and Toledo recruit Ronnie Jones.
The WPIAL is a hotbed for football talent, and Central Catholic will once again have a number of players that will join you in getting plenty of attention from college programs all over the country including David Adams and C.J. Thorpe. I assume you are all very close, does it make it easier knowing you can go through the process together?
Yes those guys are like my brothers, every time one of us gets a accolade it’s a very fun time in school between the three of us the next day. Also we get to go on recruiting trips together and spend a lot of time with each other at recruiting events.
There’s been quite a bit of athletic success in your family. Both your father Kurt and uncle Christian played college football, you have an older sister who excels in track, and your cousin Jacob who was a key part of PCC’s success this season. You must take a lot of pride in having a family that has done so well in athletics. How have they helped you get to where you are now?
My family is a huge reflection of my success. My whole family is very competitive in anything we do so I get a lot of that from them. My beautiful sister Kadin and I go running with each other in the Summer to build my endurance. My father, older brother and uncle take care of feeding me and getting me stronger.
My cousin Jacob is my best friend he is basically my brother we were born five days apart and in walking distance of each others house. Two weeks after the state championship Jacob and I were already back at it in the gym lifting and running.
Speaking of family, your father Kurt has courageously battled cancer the past few years and just this week got some great news in regards to his prognosis. What can you tell me about the impact it has had on you and the family?
My father has been battling cancer since I was in eighth grade. He was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and was given six months to live at that time. When he was diagnosed I was upset and my whole family was depressed. It hit my mom the hardest but she was actually the toughest during it. My mom had a teachers salary supporting four kids and keeping up with bills. She somehow managed to keep us alive while my dad was in the hospital but that was a really tough time.
My dad went through chemotherapy and we thought he beat cancer until a year later he went to the hospital for a cold and sore stomach only to find out he had 20 tumors the size of M&M’s in his colon. Well times got hard and we buckled down and we went to war with cancer again. That summer was coming close to an end and I was determined to make my father proud and earn a spot as a defensive lineman on the Central Catholic defense.
Camp started and on the third day of football camp I was named starting defensive end. We had a scrimmage coming up against Perry Academy and my father was due with his surgery to last surgery fighting the cancer. The surgery is called a chemo wash and it’s when they fill your entire body up with chemotherapy and then drain it. Many people don’t survive this surgery and are in the hospital for months after, but he promised me he would be at my first game.
He had surgery on a Saturday and my game was that upcoming Friday. The doctors said he would be on a ventilator for a week and they also said he would be in the hospital for a month, so I was upset that it looked like he’d miss the game. Then the Thursday of the night before my first high school football game I get home and my father opens the front door and surprises me! He made it to my first varsity game as a 10th grader and I ended up recording a sack and six tackles.
Finally this week he was due with his last battle with cancer on Monday morning and he finally won and is cured from cancer on the same day I received an offer from Boston College. My biggest inspiration is my father seeing how brave he is and my family is so thankful for the blessings bestowed upon us and everyone that has supported us these past years.
Of course Pitt fans are dying to know about your interest in the Panthers. Although they have not offered yet, you are definitely on their radar and it is probably only a matter of time until they do. What would a Pitt offer mean to you and how would it change the outlook of the process if at all?
A Pitt offer would mean a lot to me. Being a hometown kid I have always enjoyed the Pitt atmosphere around town. If Pitt offers they will definitely be one of my top schools to consider. I’m a really big panthers fan and will always be one. My favorite player to come out of Pitt is obviously Central graduate Dan Marino.
I know that you got another offer yesterday, this time from Baylor. As more schools continue to offer, have you begun to think about what programs interest you the most?
No schools really stick out to me a lot. Im going to take a lot of visits this summer and find the best fit for me.
Wherever you end up, a program is going to get a player with an incredible motor on the field. Do you model your game after any player in particular?
My favorite Athlete is Ndamukong Suh, he reminds me a lot of myself when he plays being that he plays old school blue collar football.
Obviously there will be plenty of football-centric factors related to your college choice. What other factors will play the biggest role in your decision such as academics and college atmosphere?
The biggest factor for me in selecting a school is that I want to find the right overall fit for me in this process. That being how i feel about the coaching staff, the campus, and the academics point of view. Right now my current GPA is a 3.34 and my favorite class is chemistry because i love watching reactions take place and working with chemicals. I want to study to be a dentist in college.
Finally, when your not focused on football what other things do enjoy doing in your free time?
My favorite thing to do outside of football is hanging out with family and friends. One person I hangout with is my girlfriend Hanna Kalwarksi who is a gymnast for Baldwin. She does it all for me whether its making me something to eat, rubbing my sore muscles from playing football, or sitting outside in the freezing cold watching my football games.